From California to Columbia — By Fr. Reginald, O.P.
Perhaps the place to start would be in a little chapel in the corner of the cafeteria of Thomas Aquinas College in my home state of California early in my freshman year (a good many years ago now). I wasn’t Catholic, or very religious at all, at the time. I had been baptized in the Disciples of Christ Church when I was about 10 years old, but by the time I went to college, I hadn’t been to church in a while and had decided that I could not honestly call myself a Christian.
After some interesting conversations in the dorm, someone invited me to come to Mass on Sunday. I agreed, totally unprepared for what I would find there. Mass was in Latin (it was the Novus Ordo in Latin, I later learned); there was incense and Gregorian chant; many of the women wore veils; there were many spaces of awed silence. Something about this experience overwhelmed me. I couldn’t explain why, but I started weeping, and I wept through the whole Mass. It was only later that I learned about the Catholic belief in the Eucharist; at this moment, however, it was very clear to me that those worshippers believed that something extraordinary, something more that human, was happening on the altar in that little chapel that day.
A day or so later, the college chaplain invited me to come and talk. He started giving me instruction and by the end of the academic year, I was Catholic. I was conditionally baptized, made my first Confession, received my first Holy Communion (I remember saying “Amen” loud enough that the whole church could hear me), and, a little later, received the sacrament of Confirmation.
Ever since that time, in my gratitude for the gift of the sacraments and the Catholic faith, I suspected that I might have a priestly vocation. However, I procrastinated for a while on actually giving it a try. After college, I lived with some artsy friends in North Carolina doing plays and music (playing Horatio was the height of my acting career); then, back in California, I took up surfing while working as a curriculum developer and a wine steward; then I studied theology in Austria. Finally, back in California, I decided that I had put off my vocation long enough. I entered the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, a small religious community in Santa Paula, California. After novitiate, I studied theology at the Angelicum in Rome, where I was blessed to live for three years, enjoying the beauty and history (and the pasta) of the Eternal City.
After completing my studies in Rome, I requested a transfer to the Dominican Order, beginning a three-year trial period, which I spent in Denver, then St. Louis, then Bloomington, Indiana. Last August, I took solemn vows in the Dominican Order and was ordained a priest in October. Since then, I have been living in St. Louis while completing a thesis (I wrote on priestly spirituality) and celebrating Masses at a few local parishes.
It has been a blessed, if circuitous, journey from that little chapel in California, and I look forward to the next chapter of my Dominican and priestly life here in Columbia. I ask for your patience and your prayers, and please know I will be praying for you daily. God bless you all.